Archive for John Markoff

Down The Technological Rabbit Hole: LSD Inventor Hofmann’s Letter To Steve Jobs

Posted in Music, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2009 by halmasonberg

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Steve Jobs

Well, it seems psychedelic drugs and the modern computer age have more in common than one might expect. Apple CEO Steve Jobs once said his experience taking LSD was “one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.”

According to New York Times technology reporter, John Markoff:

Psychedelic drugs pushed the computer and Internet revolutions forward by showing folks that reality can be profoundly altered through unconventional, highly intuitive thinking.

Douglas Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse, was someone who experimented and explored using psychedelic drugs. Kevin Herbert, who worked for Cisco Systems in the early days, has stated:

“When I’m on LSD and hearing something that’s pure rhythm, it takes me to another world and into anther brain state where I’ve stopped thinking and started knowing.”

Herbert apparently claims to have “solved his toughest technical problems while tripping to drum solos by the Grateful Dead.”

“It must be changing something about the internal communication in my brain. Whatever my inner process is that lets me solve problems, it works differently, or maybe different parts of my brain are used.”

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, are longtime visitors and participants in Burning Man, an annual gathering in the Nevada desert devoted to communal enlightenment by creating an environment which invites its attendees to use different parts of their brains.

According to John Gilmore, the fifth employee at Sun Microsystems:

“What psychedelics taught me is that life is not rational. IBM was a very rational company.”

To this end, Steve Jobs was once quoted as saying that Bill Gates would “be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once.”

Chemist Kary Mullis once told Gilmore that acid helped him develop his 1993 Nobel prize-winning polymerase chain reaction, a significant and crucial breakthrough for biochemistry.

According to British wire service reporter Alun Reese, Francis Crick who, along with James Watson discovered DNA, had told friends that he first saw the double-helix structure while tripping on LSD.

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Albert Hofmann

So back to Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann who, for those who don’t already know, was the inventor of LSD. Hofmann, at the ripe age of 101 (he died at 102), wrote to Steve Jobs asking for his financial support in the study and exploration of both the medical and psychiatric benefits of psychedelic drugs.

Here is that letter in its entirety:

Dear Mr. Steve Jobs,

Hello from Albert Hofmann. I understand from media accounts that you feel LSD helped you creatively in your development of Apple computers and your personal spiritual quest. I’m interested in learning more about how LSD was useful to you.

I’m writing now, shortly after my 101st birthday, to request that you support Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Peter Gasser’s proposed study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in subjects with anxiety associated with life-threatening illness. This will become the first LSD-assisted psychotherapy study in over 35 years.

I hope you will help in the transformation of my problem child into a wonder child.

Sincerely,

A. Hofmann

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